Britt Stewart is a professional dancer and is the first black female pro on “Dancing with the Stars.” Stewart started dancing at three at her local dance studio in Colorado, Artistic Fusion Dance Academy. Next, Stewart was accepted into the dance program at the Denver School of the Arts. She has received training in modern and cultural dance styles. After graduating in 2007, she was accepted into the contemporary and ballet program at Loyola Marymount University and subsequently moved to Los Angeles, where she resides today. Her combined training in all dance art forms and numerous performances, competitions, and workshop opportunities established a foundation for her professional dance career.
Stewart has toured and performed alongside world-renowned recording artists such as Florence + The Machine, Rihanna, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Selena Gomez, and Janet Jackson. In addition, Stewart is active in the community sharing her talent for causes that promote wellness and art appreciation.
Tammy Gibson: What inspired you to be a professional dancer?
Britt Stewart: Dance is my life. I have been doing it since I was three years old. My parents put me in dance class. They tried to put me in other activities, but dance made me happy. I started dancing professionally at age 13. My first big job was when I was 15 years old. I was in the High School Musical Series. Series 1 and 2 were Disney Channel, and Series 3 was Theatre. That’s what jumpstarted my career and inspired me to continue pursuing a professional career in dance after graduating from high school.
TG: Who has been your role model as a dancer, and did you get the opportunity to meet them?
BS: I have many amazing role models. Debbie Allen has inspired me and has continued to inspire me in my career. She is limitless in my eyes. She was a dancer turned choreographer, actor, director, producer, and philanthropist. She gives back to her community to spread the love of dance and bring opportunities to the community. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet her. I would love to sit down and have a conversation with her one day. Several years ago, I did a tribute performance for Debbie Allen. Marguerite Derricks, who danced for Debbie Allen, choreographed the tribute performance. It was an amazing opportunity to perform for Debbie Allen.
TG: What was it like working for Janet Jackson?
BS: Working for Janet Jackson was awesome. She was someone I listened to growing up. I know Michael Jackson was a legend, but I was a Janet Jackson fan. When I got the chance to dance with Janet Jackson, it was a dream come true. The opportunity happened out of nowhere. Janet treats everyone with much respect and has such a kind heart. The chance to dance with Janet at the American Music Awards in 2009 is one of my favorite jobs that I have done as a professional dancer.
TG: Being the first black female professional dancer on Dancing with the Stars, what does that mean for you, and why do you think it took so long?
BS: I just finished my second season with Dancing with the Stars, and I still pinch myself. When people tell me, “Do you realize you are making history” or “You inspire me to start ballroom dancing,” I still pinch myself. Having this opportunity is a blessing from God that I have to use it for the better and give back. It’s an honor to be that representation, and I don’t take it lightly. It’s a big deal for someone to see a reflection of themselves on a major network television show.
Before going pro, I was on a troupe as part of Dancing with the Stars for five seasons. I had been on the show for a long time before getting the promotion. The show always celebrated diversity. That was never an issue. I always felt I could be myself. I didn’t have to be a certain way to get promoted or be on the show.
When it comes to diversity in the ballroom community, competitive ballroom dance, as a whole, is not diverse. Many of the dance styles, such as the cha-cha, foxtrot, and samba, are rooted in black and brown culture. It has become competitively a cultural thing for Russia, Europe, and Asia. So you don’t see a lot of diversity in that realm of competitive dance.
Also, ballroom dance is very expensive in the United States. So to have that training, not everybody is exposed, has access or the means to prepare thoroughly and train in a competitive way that would make it available to them to one day be a pro on Dancing with the Stars. So it’s a community issue that many other people and I are looking to eventually impact the community with ballroom dance.
TG: You started a non-profit, Share the Movement. Can you talk about your mission to bring ballroom dancing to underprivileged communities?
BS: Share the Movement is to increase diversity in the professional dance industry by providing financial, educational, and inspiration support to young BIPOC dancers. We are starting at the foundational level for young dancers looking to further their dance training, career and aspire to be professionals one day but don’t have the means. We launched in April 2021 and provided full scholarships for 20 young BIPOC dancers to their preferred summer dance program to continue their dance training throughout the summer. Next year, we will launch our entire program to put our mission into action. We will go to an underserved community, find a child that wants to be a professional dancer, and provide leotards, dance shoes, competition fees, and anything they need for their dance training. We want to partner with dance studios in communities to offer educational support and mentorship programs. We want to do a full circle of support for a child who wants to pursue a career in dance.
TG: What is next for you in the future?
BS: I’m invested with Dancing with the Stars. I want to continue on the show as a professional and to be able to still be that black representation, especially for women on a prevalent television show. As for the future, I still see myself in the entertainment industry after dance. I would love to have the opportunity to direct, produce acting, and choreograph. When I look at where I want my life to be, I have big dreams.
TG: What advice would you give to little girls who watch you on Dancing with the Stars and want to be a professional ballroom dancer?
BS: Part of me is that I am a dreamer and believe in big dreams. I would tell little girls to be limitless. Whatever you want to do in life requires hard work and timing. Timing is critical for me. I believe I got this opportunity with Dancing with the Stars at the right time in my life, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Britt Stewart will be on tour with Dancing with the Stars Live 2022. For dates and tickets, go to https://dwtstour.com/.
Follow Britt Stewart on social media at: https://www.brittbenaestewart.com/
To learn more about Share the Movement, go to https://www.sharethemovementnow.org/.
Tammy Gibson is a black history traveler and author. Find her on social media @SankofaTravelHr and @sankofatravelher